‘Geek Chic’ Glasses and the Office

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - ArrivalsCan you wear hipster/geek chic eyeglasses to the office — especially if you’re young?

I’m hoping for your input on a quandary I’m having. I’m starting my first real job this summer so trying to build an adult wardrobe now. I am nearsighted and strongly prefer glasses to contacts for everyday wear. I love my (only) current pair; they’re big and plastic and perfect for me. But can I pull off “geek chic” in a professional (though not very conservative) environment, especially as a 21 year-old intern?

As a fellow glasses wearer, I’m curious to hear what the readers say here.  I think that ‘geek chic’ glasses can be great — I’ve even recommended them to a reader who was wondering how to to make her look edgier.  However, there is a sliding scale with these things.  The wackier the glasses are, the more that people will remember (and form opinions about you) based on your glasses, at least at first.  In other words: if a particular boss thinks you look like a bit odd/hipster/weird/[insert negative word here], you are probably not going to get a lot of work with that person.  You may say, “fine, I wouldn’t want to work with someone that stodgy anyway!,” and an outward statement about your personality can be a great way to whittle down who you work with.  (Glasses are in a different ballpark than heavily tattooed arms, but you may want to check out that discussion as well.)    That said… you don’t want to be so limited that only a few people in the office want to work with you — so if your office is filled with more “stodgy” types than not, you need to exercise caution.  (And just in terms of style, I personally prefer not to have a certain pair of glasses be my trademark, but that’s just my $.02.)  (Pictured above: I was sort of surprised to see Jenna Lyons wear what I would classify as geek-chic eyeglasses to an Oscars party, but if they become your trademark look then I suppose it’s weirder not to wear them.)

So here would be my approach:  wear multiple pairs of glasses.  It’s a fun way to change up your look, and if you show up to a big first-day meeting in boring wire-frames or a more sedate plastic frame, no one’s going to ask, “Where are those glasses you always wear?”  When you think you’re going to have your first casual day (i.e. no big meetings or introductions), then try out the “geek chic” glasses and see what the response is.  There are so many inexpensive options online that my suggestion of multiple glasses doesn’t have to be a huge financial commitment — I’ve actually been poking around online lately to see if I can get one or two more fun pairs.  (I’m looking to replace a boring pair that recently got ruined (yay, toddler!), so I have the exact measurements of a pair that I really liked. I’ve been eyeing the selections at Warby Parker, Coastal Glasses, Glasses USA, Eyebuy Direct, etc, and am just keeping track of different options via a private Pinterest board.  I’ll report back to let you know how the experience goes if I bite the bullet!)  You can also get some great discounts on eyewear through flash sale sites or a big store sale (like the one Lens Crafters has twice a year — I think it’s “50% off on lenses” that is the big twice-yearly one).

Readers, what are your thoughts on ‘geek chic’ glasses in the office, and in general?  More importantly, do you have multiple pairs of eyeglasses — and if so, where did you get them, and how much have you invested in your eyewear collection?


  1. Usually I agree with Kat, but I totally disagree here. I’d say don’t wear really cheap glasses if you can avoid it, but at least in NYC many people of all ages have birthcontrol glasses at this point and I think it would be silly to avoid wearing them to work.

  2. I have perfect vision, so I do NOT need glasses, but when I was applying for a job, I was told that I looked to young, so I was advized to wear glasses, with a clear lens that did NOT have a prescreption in it. Yay!

    So I went to Lens Crafter’s and they made me a set of glasses that make’s me look about 10 year’s older. I have worn these now for 5 year’s and I will get rid of them in 5 more year’s so that I will then LOOK my OWN age.

    The judge like’s me with glasses, and so does the manageing partner, tho I was NOT weareing the glasse’s when I bumped into him in the ELEVATOR.

    So I recomend that women wear them if they want to look OLDER, but not wear them if they wish to look YOUNGER. This make’s alot of sense so please follow this advise if you wish to be successful in the business world. YAY!

    • [Sound of my whistle blowing]


      • Anonymous :

        the fact that whoever is ellen spends an incredible amount of time on this site posting everyday as a fake poster, and the fact that you made a blog about it and can recall her information from 2011 within minutes is so insane it almost becomes sane. Like do you tell anyone you have a blog detailing the chronicles of a fake poster on a blog (not even a fake blog, a fake internet commentator) Or is it just a secret guilty pleasure? Or are you Ellen and the conspiracy goes all the way to the top?

        • Whoah. If ELLENWatch is really Ellen…..my head is spinning. Kind of like an Escher print.

          (Not that I really think they are the same person….and ELLENWatch, keep up the good work!) :-)

        • What a glorious post! “So sane it almost becomes sane” is an apt way to put it, I think. Direct Q&A:

          1) Yes, ELLENWatch’s intimates know all about her blog.
          2) It’s certainly a pleasure but I do not feel guilty about it.
          3) While my life would be much more straightforward if I were Ellen, I am not. At this point I’d say we have a very complex, but still mutually mysterious, relationship.

        • Hush, now. It is not insane. It is amazing.

      • maybe she got Lasix?

  3. My method is to have one pair of glasses with really expensive/high quality lenses, and those are my most conservative/work-friendly glasses. Then my fun pairs have average quality lenses, and I wear what is appropriate for that day at work. Board meeting = conservative glasses. Hanging in my office alone all day working on memos = whatever glasses I want.

    I’m currently seeking some pink or mint green frames- I already have black ones, tortise shell ones, deep purple, so I want something even a little more out there. I sort of see it like building a wardrobe- start with the basics then add in the fun/trendy items.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I love this idea actually – I would love to mix up my eyewear a little more because I don’t wear contacts. But like other commenters below, my prescription is SO expensive. I wonder if I could actually get the lens done cheaper on one of the online stores…

      • Rural Juror :

        Hav you guys tried clearly contacts (.ca)? They very frequently run promos and I think your first pair of frames are free. I ordered a (free) pair funkier than what I would normally wear and just got the basic lenses and it was $18 shipping included. I figured it was worth the risk of them not working out since it was so cheap.

    • I do this, too. And unless you have a really crazy prescription, you can get lots of fun pairs for $10 a pop. Really I just think of my glasses the same way I do my jewelry – another potential statement piece.

  4. Elizabeth M :

    I ordered some glasses from Coastal not too long ago – they had some sort of a promotion where new customers could get a complete set for around $15. I was hesitant about ordering glasses online, but I’d had the same pair for 5-6 years and was desperate for a switch. I love my new glasses! The ordering process went off without a hitch, and they fit really well. I think the trick in getting a good fit is to use the measurements from a pair that you like – my old, high-end glasses (from SEE) had measurements inside indicating things like the overall size of the frame and the bridge distance.

    The best part about ordering glasses online, if you’re cheap, uninsured, and willing to ignore your optical health, is that you can use an expired prescription. My eyeglasses prescription hasn’t changed since puberty, so I was willing to forgo a yearly eye exam and use my old prescription.

    • Costco is really cheap to get a basic eye exam. I went last year to get my prescription checked, (because Coastal was running a promotion for free glasses lol) and my exam was ~60 bucks.

  5. There is a difference between cheap hipster glasses and quality ones. And know your office.

    I’m in media/advertising, and there’s 3 people above me who I swear all have the same pair of tortoise-shell printed thick framed glasses.

  6. Diana Barry :

    I think whatever glasses you have are fine. Mine are not the super-ugly kind, but they cost a lot (I have a strong prescription+ astigmatism) and I only have one pair-the pair I used to use doesn’t fit any more.

  7. Veronique :

    I am a big fan of multiple pairs of glasses, and I’m still building my wardrobe. I don’t really have any trendy or out there frames. I prefer classic styles and play around with color. My previous glasses were conservative, high quality plastic frames but they were dark red, almost burgundy. I recently switched to wire rimmed frames with light tan arms, but was also considering frames in eggplant, forest green, etc.. I would like to switch out the lenses of my old glasses (new prescription) and keep the frame, but am not sure where to go. Any suggestions?

    I have a friend who wears geek chic glasses to work as a public defender (though nowhere near as large/trendy as the glasses pictured). If I were to get some cheap, funky glasses, I would definitely go with cat-eyes! I doubt I’d ever wear them to work, though.

  8. hoola hoopa :

    I disagree and am actually rather bothered by this advice. If you have an easy prescription to fill cheaply, I suppose that’s an approach to consider, but the real advice is to be professional and wear the glasses she has.

    I have a complex (read: expensive) prescription and my lenses cost many times more than my frames. I therefore have one pair at a time. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that a young intern pay ~$300-500 for a pair of glasses that her coworkers will like more.

    Seriously, if people won’t work with you because you are wearing yellow glasses, they have issues. Dress and act professionally, listen, do good work. You’ll be fine in whatever glasses you wear.

    • Same my glasses cost around 400 with the lenses- it is not the frames that are expensive for me. I saw the advice to buy multiple and was like what! If its easy I can see the appeal of ahving multiple pairs- but I would just stick to what you have.

    • Yes, this exactly! I have very expensive lenses, and, because of that, am a little horrified at Kat’s advice. Not everyone can or should but cheap glasses online.

      To the OP: Wear the glasses you have. If you love them and think they’re perfect for you, then you’ll be more confident about everything else.

    • This.

      If someone needs $1000 glasses, multiple pairs are not an option when at the beginning of a career or on a career track that dead ends below the upper 5% of the income distribution.

      Buy one pair of timeless, conservative, nondescript, glasses and wear them everywhere.

    • Mountain Girl :

      I have a very difficult prescription as well. I can’t imagine having more than one pair of glasses at a time. I buy one pair of glasses and I’m happy and thankful that the technology exists that allows me to see. If I had been born in another era I would be functionally blind.

    • Totes McGotes :

      This x1000. Glad I’m not alone in giving this advice the side-eye.

    • Seriously :

      Yep. My newest pair of glasses — which I’ll wear for years — was $600. No Warby Parkers for me. I love having astigmatism and being blind as a bat.

      • This used to be me, but almost 2 month ago now I got implantable contact lens surgery, an was super excited to spend $10 on a cheapo Internet pair of glasses recently! (Surgery didn’t fix my astigmatism, but I haven’t really been wearing them, since its pretty mild)

  9. Personally, I think “hipster” glasses are so mainstream by now that it’s not a big deal, no matter how conservative the office.

    In my old office, one of my colleagues got some majorly wacko glasses (basically he was over hipster glasses and had moved on to something trendier before most people knew what hipster glasses were). Next thing I knew, the next co-worker was up for new lenses and got even wackier frames (I’m not talking pink or neon, but really really prominent shapes and frames). The whole thing spread like a wildfire, where by the end of the year from managing director to the 50 year old, matronly admin, 30% of staff had new, super prominent and very fashionable glasses. Everyone looked so great! I’d go so far to say, some looked a lot more professional/polished than they did with their wire-rimmed/rimless/neutral metal frames. As long as the rest of your outfit is conservative , I don’t see this as a problem.

    • +1. I work in a fashion-free office in a style-free part of the country (it’s my hometown, I’m allowed to say it), and “hipster” glasses are old news.

    • This! I, like seemingly everybody else all over this post have crazy bad eyes + astigmatism so every pair is about $300-$400.

      Pro tip: Stay away from Cohen’s in NYC, get your prescription from someone reputable but then take it to Chinatown or shop around for the best deals. They literally priced the same frames + lens to $800 when I could get them for $400 in Chinatown.

      Anyhow, I got a spendy hipster-ish yet passably business pair in 2010 when I needed to update my prescription and (finally!) but supplemented with a cheaper pair and a more professional pair in 2011 in Seoul.

      However, I’m finding I just go with my geeky tortiose shell patterned plastic frames most days.

  10. Sydney Bristow :

    Maybe I’m not fully understanding the definition of hipster glasses, but I think most glasses are fine to wear to work. I certainly don’t think anything when I see someone wearing what would be considered to be totally out of date frames, I’m thinking of an older man or woman who hasn’t changed their style of glasses in the last 40 years, and I don’t think anything of most trendy glasses either.

    I do know someone who wears glasses with glittery cat eye frames, but she works on the creative side of a fashion company so its completely appropriate. Something that is that far from the norm is about the only thing I can see not working in a more conservative office. Short of that, I say go for it!

  11. I’ve worn the glasses in my avatar for nine years now and I can’t really imagine any other style working on me. Birth control glasses would overwhelm my face (and I also understand why they’re called that!). Contacts are a pain in the tuchis, especially if you have to change them up several times a day — I have my reasons. I can’t with the wire rims; they just feel too stodgy. So I’ll likely make this my signature pair of glasses and wear it or something like it ’til I croak. Any employer who objects can pay to have my eyes fixed.

  12. Praxidike :

    This is ridiculous. I work in a very conservative industry, surrounded by old white guys who are my father/grandfather’s age, am the only female attorney in the company, and wear hipster glasses. The only feedback I have EVER gotten on them is positive (“Those glasses look great!”).

    Unless you’ve got big, gaudy rhinestone glasses from the late 70s (and even then …), I would not worry about it.

    • Anon cause Im cranky :

      Praxidike, I agree! How much time are we wasting picking ourselves apart? Curly/straight; big jewelry/small jewelry; color/no color. UGH!! I love this site (really, I love it!), but sometimes I feel like these posts are silly in that they’re raising questions that nobody is asking.

      I don’t want to sound cranky, but do we really think the higher ups a) care what glasses you are wearing as long as you are doing great work b) know how much your glasses cost c) notice your glasses unless they’re totally weird (ie, rhinestones or giant round 70s glasses)? If my assistant came in wearing red cat eye glasses, I might blink an eye. If she came in wearing trendy glasses, I would never think of them again. She’s good at her job. If another colleague came in wearing red cat eye glasses, after always being late, never following through, and basically phoning it in, I might be like, “ugh, now we can add horrible glasses to the list of reasons this person is not impressing me.”

      Everybody needs to chill.

      • I totally agree that this is completely needless worrying. One thought that’s routinely occurred to me with the focus on this blog towards always looking conservative is that I’m not convinced that’s always sending the right message either. I think there’s a lot of value in “keeping up”, with your field, practice area, work, etc. and that a mindset of “keeping up” can be reflected in how you dress. If I see someone with an obviously dated look, I do question whether they’ve kept up with work if they are so comfortable being stuck in another decade appearance wise. To that end, I say yes to hipster glasses and wouldn’t give it a second thought.

      • Agree and glad to see so many comments that women ought not be wasting good $$ on maintaining a wardrobe of glasses simply to conform to dubious expectations about their appearance.

    • Yes, this. And the nice thing about the retro vibe is that the styles of the glasses themselves often aren’t “new” at all… lots of people have been wearing thick frames for years.

  13. I recently saw a young woman wearing a pair of the red, 80’s glasses (Think of the glasses Sarah Jessica Parker wore in Square Pegs.) She was a gorgeous woman, but for some reason, I thought the glasses looked ridiculous on her. I don’t usually notice and get judgy about details like that, but they looked silly to me. I don’t know if it’s because they were the style when *I* was that age, or what. I am sure I would have seemed ridiculous if I’d worn the 50’s/60’s cat eye glasses my mom wore back in the day. I think the reason I didn’t like it is because she seemed to be trying too hard to be “retro.” On the other hand, I love seeing women in their 50’s and 60’s with funky glasses.

  14. Frou Frou :

    Meh. I think you should go with the style that reinforces the image you want to project.

    My lenses are expensive (minor correction, but three of them in one lens), so my days of multiple pairs of readers are gone. I chose a stylish designer frame that was conservative with a slight edge of funk. I wanted glasses that I could wear in court and not feel like the judge (or jury) was looking at me like I was a dork and wondering what the hay I had on my face. I also wanted a pair that made me feel stylish, confident, a little sexy, a little intimidating/serious.

    Also, I am not embarrassed to admit that I may have tried to imagine myself having a convo with Diane Lockhart from the Good Wife (yes, I mean her character, and not CB herself) while wearing my glasses and wondering if she’d give me a style thumbs up or sit me down for a woman-to-woman lecture on how to make it as a lady lawyer. :) My frames passed that made up ridiculousness, so I went with them!

    • Agree completely on reinforcing a specific image.

      If they make you look even younger than you already are, it might be worth investing in a less distinctive style (especially if you have an easy-to-fill prescription). As a young (female) engineer I could never tell if I was being minimized/ignored/dismissed because of my youth, my gender, or something else. For another anecdote: one of my co-workers (same department, a couple of years older than me) picked up some heavy-framed “hipster” safety glasses, and he noticed a definite negative impact in how both internal contacts and customers responded to him.

      My general style approach is generally to go pretty bland for the first week, then start introducing other elements a bit at a time – bright colours, different styles, etc. As the only woman in most of my workplaces (therefore no relevant women to emulate), it’s a cautious approach that has served me well.

      If you’ve been through an interview with the glasses and landed the job already, there’s a good chance that they won’t be entirely out of place with the work culture.

      If your lenses are on the expensive side, do you have either an out-of-date-but-still-kinda-close-ish more conservative pair you could fall back on for a few days, or could you bear contacts for a few days while you assess the office? If you’re definitely hooked on the glasses you have, I’d probably lean towards keeping the rest of your style a little more conservative – again, until you have a good idea of how people will respond.

      (For reference, I have been wearing contacts daily since I was 12, and glasses for 11 years before that – I switched because the glasses frames were prone to breaking, the lenses fogged up all the time going inside/outside, and they gave me migraines due to the difference between peripheral and forward vision)

  15. Considering the glasses that are trendy now are mimicking what was popular over 20 years ago, I don’t think they fall into the “edgy and trendy” category at all. I mean, my father wears glasses like that, just because they’re also popular with young people doesn’t suddenly make all the older people that have been wearing them for decades too edgy and hip.

  16. “Just wear several pairs”? Erm, my glasses cost about $700 – almost $1000 when I also change the frame. I have my everyday pair, a somewhat cheaper pair I keep at the office in case an accident happens, and a sunglasses version. (My specific eye problem cannot be corrected with contacts, and I don’t like them anyway – uncomfortable and high maintenance.)

  17. I don’t have any glasses yet, but maybe it is good idea to buy, they looked really nice

  18. I just ordered a pair from Classic Specs. They’re similar to Warby Parker but I liked them better – you get 6 pairs of home trial frames and can keep them for a week, versus WP’s 5 frames for 5 days. Classic Specs had frames that looked nicer on my narrow, small face – I didn’t think I could wear plastic frames until I found these. The best part is that they’re $89, and if you need high index lenses like I did, it’s only another $20. I paid exactly $109 – no sales tax on glasses in NYS, even though they’re based in Brooklyn, and no extra fees. The lenses are polycarbonite and come with anti-scratch and anti-glare coatings.

    I have astigmatism and they were able to make my lenses, but I think they say they may not be able to if your astigmatism is severe.

    • I think Kat’s advice is spot on – assuming that you can buy cheap glasses.

      I finally decided to get a couple of fun pairs from Warby Parker, and they have been great. I love being able to change it up for different looks and coordinating with clothes. I cannot wear contacts often due to really sensitive eyes, so I see it like investing in accessories/jewelry, but even more important since its right there on my face.

      I am going to have to check out Classic Specs now, since I think I’ve exhausted the WPs that I like and look good on me with the 2 I already have…. and I’m itching for some new frames!

  19. Work in big law in NYC. I have a fairly weak prescription (i.e., cheap) for reading and I have a total of four pairs of glasses. Three are Chanel and are either Havana tortoise (light) or a darker tortoise shell. Two of these frames are larger square/rectangular. Not hipster, but not boring. Fairly distinct and large. My third pair of Chanel glasses are round and larger (not those tiny round glasses…more like Harry Potter) and half the arm is a bright green, along with the logo. My last pair are clear Selima’s from JCrew (people hate these online, but they look great for the right event/with the right outfit), but I only wear these outside of work (reading at home, weekend trips, art events, etc.).

    People have given me very positive feedback for my glasses. I think if you stick to tortoise shell and/or a classic shape, you should be fine. In addition, I try to look polished at work, which I think allows for a more creative frame AND I think that a sharp frame can add to your overall polished appearance. To me, glasses have been a great way to add some distinct style. I think the key when wearing “weird” or “hipster” frames is to make sure they are the best quality you can afford. I think of them as like a watch or a nice piece of jewelry.

  20. I agree with the multiple glasses solution. I have several pairs from http://www.zennioptical.com/. They are cheap (I don’t have any pairs that cost me more than $30, lenses included), but most of them look much more expensive than they are. Since they are so inexpensive, I was able to order a variety of serious/funky glasses as well as prescription sunglasses for a reasonable price. LOVE them.

  21. I’m also in the early-20s/first real job/lover of glasses camp. My glasses are a physical necessity and I love them, so while my best friend said I should take them off as I rode up the elevator to a big job interview this summer, I kept them on and got the job. I work in a very conservative profession and have only ever received positive feedback about my ‘hipster’ glasses. I think they make me memorable in a sea of neutral coloured suits and fresh faces….and they prevent me from squinting at my work or my clients all day.

  22. I think it’s also worth noting that while hipster glasses may be trendy, it’s not necessarily a style choice for everyone. Some lenses are too thick to go in thin wire frames, and while they’re getting better at making thin lenses, those materials don’t work for anyone. Glasses are an accessory, but for many people they’re also a necessity. Personally, I really hate the way glasses frames and wearing contacts are seen as style statements when the reality is, for a lot of people, particularly those with difficult or expensive prescriptions, there aren’t as many choices as the general public seems to believe. Glasses are, first and foremost, a medical device.

    • Thank you, Stephanie! As a person with an expensive and thick prescription, “hipster” glasses are more of a necessity than a choice. And while I always recommend having a backup pair if you can afford it, buying several different pairs can get prohibitively expensive when your prescription costs so much more than the frames.

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